Posts Tagged ‘QSLs’

YADD

Maritime Traffic - courtesy: www.marinetraffic.com/
When the HF maritime CW bands were shut down in the late 90's, one of my favorite pastimes also ended ... listening for and logging the various coastal stations as well as listening for the ships themselves.

Until very recently, I had believed that there were no longer any HF maritime operations left, other than various Coast Guard weather announcements and an emergency watch on certain USB frequencies.

Over the past week I have discovered that HF maritime activity is still alive and well, through the worldwide Digital Selective Calling (DSC) system, which has been around in one form or another since the early 90's as part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) ... I guess I was just asleep at the switch, having not been aware of the HF DSC activity!

Although it's not CW, there's still ample opportunity to hear and follow global shipping traffic as vessels of all types contact coastal land stations or call each other. One requirement that keeps the DSC frequencies busy is the requirement for vessels to test their systems at least once per week, providing many opportunities to log various coastal stations or add a new ship to your logbook. Ships can be heard calling coastals for a routine signal test, setting up an SSB phone QSO on a specified frequency or just calling another ship for a test or a phone sked. As well, DSC can be used to send a distress message alert in times of emergency.

Messages are sent in an error-correcting FSK mode, similar to the Navtex system, using the same speed and shift of 100 baud /170Hz. There are a few programs that can be used to decode the DSC messages but one of the best and most popular is the freely available "YADD", by Dirk Claessens .

YADD stands for "Yet Another DSC Decoder" and is an offshoot of Dirk's equally popular and effective "YAND", a free Navtex decoder.

YADD and several other software decoders can be downloaded from the NDB List Info site ... the best source of hands-on information for topics involving NDBs, Navtex, DGPS, DSC DXing and more.

After downloading and installing YADD and setting audio levels correctly, YADD began decoding signals with ease.


The spectrum display at the top of YADD's screen shows the audio passband coming from the receiver. With the receiver in the CW mode, DSC signals will appear on the frequency that your receiver's BFO offset frequency is set for. I prefer an offset of 400Hz so the spectrum display shows the signal at 400Hz, with the tuning cursor centered on a signal. A narrow CW filter should also be selected but no narrower than 170Hz.

Each vessel using the system, as well as the coastal land stations, have a unique 9-digit MMSI number (Maritime Mobile Service Identity). Once the software detects the MMSI numbers being used, it can then display the vessel's name (or the coastal's location and distance) so you know who you are listening to ... it's all very slick!

After initially running my receiver for a few minutes on the 12MHz DSC channel, I decided to look up the location of the first two ships I had heard, using one of the Internet's marine traffic sites.

I was surprised to find that my first catch was a large tanker under way in Kola Bay, having just departed Murmansk, in the Russian Arctic. Vessel number two was also under way along the east coast of South Korea.

The YADD screen above is showing the large bulk carrier 'SALANDI' (3FEB9) calling Rio de Janeiro Radio (PWZ) today on 16804.5KHz.

Courtesy: Henk Guddee
 A quick position check shows the SALANDI at anchor awaiting docking in Santos, southwest of Rio.



I soon discovered an active group of DSC DXers in Yahoo Group's DSC List, which I quickly joined and started asking a lot of questions. The 'Files' section also contains the latest list of ship MMSI numbers so that your YADD look-up text file can be kept up-to-date.

One of the group members, GM4SLV, has set up a wonderful website called YaDDNet devoted to collecting and posting listener's decoded loggings in realtime. One of YADD's features is the ability to automatically upload decoded signals, similar to PSK Reporter. It's an easy 30-second job to configure YADD to upload your spots to the net. His site also contains the latest MMSI look-up file used by YADD which is updated in real time from the latest log postings ... presently at 34,566 vessels!

Clicking on any of the uploaded ship names displayed in the real time YaDDNet log, automatically takes you to an online vessel-tracking site which usually has a picture of the ship along with all of its information, including its present position.

If you set up YADD to do some listening, I'd strongly urge you to also set it up so that your decoded spots are uploaded to the YaDDNet page in real time. Configuring this capability is very simple. Your latest logs will also keep the MMSI database up-to-date for all YADD users.

If, like me, you have missed the maritime CW activity on HF, you may find monitoring DSC traffic of interest ... both ships and coastals. I may even try QSLing some of the coastals again, many of which will still issue a traditional card QSL, upholding a long standing shortwave radio tradition ... but grab them while you can!

From my collection. Heard 4349KHz CW Aug '96

July’s EME Window

With QSLs still arriving from previous 2m EME action, I was looking extra forward to late July's very short window.

When last month's activity was interrupted by my 140W brick amplifier catching fire, I was anxious to see if my repairs and homebrew RFC would still allow me to play on the moon. With July's best-positioned moonrises being too close to the sun (which was also rising at the same time), I was only able to spend a short time over two days before the moon travelled too far to the south and into my neighbour's trees.






Luckily I was rewarded with what seemed like very good lunar conditions, enabling me to easily work six different stations ... three of them being all-time new ones and boosting my EME initials total to 112.

I2FAK Franco / 16x19 el array
RK3FG Anatoly / 4x15 el array
G4SWX John / 4x16 el array
F4DJK Paul / 4x11 el array / #110
F5AQX Andre / 4x11 el array / #111
DL9DBJ Hartmut / 4x10 el array / #112


In addition, DL1VPL told me that he was able to copy me with his single 12el Yagi during the QSO with I2FAK! Needless to say, a contact between two single Yagi stations would be truly remarkable. I've only been able to copy a single Yagi station once over the years.

F4DJK's 4x11 el array

F5AQX's 4x11 el array

DJ9DBJ's 4x10 el array

I was gratified to see that letting the smoke out of my little amplifier last month apparently caused no permanent damage and the repair seems to be holding up ... but I'll leave the bottom off for now just in case it gets any more crazy ideas.

July’s EME Window

With QSLs still arriving from previous 2m EME action, I was looking extra forward to late July's very short window.

When last month's activity was interrupted by my 140W brick amplifier catching fire, I was anxious to see if my repairs and homebrew RFC would still allow me to play on the moon. With July's best-positioned moonrises being too close to the sun (which was also rising at the same time), I was only able to spend a short time over two days before the moon travelled too far to the south and into my neighbour's trees.






Luckily I was rewarded with what seemed like very good lunar conditions, enabling me to easily work six different stations ... three of them being all-time new ones and boosting my EME initials total to 112.

I2FAK Franco / 16x19 el array
RK3FG Anatoly / 4x15 el array
G4SWX John / 4x16 el array
F4DJK Paul / 4x11 el array / #110
F5AQX Andre / 4x11 el array / #111
DL9DBJ Hartmut / 4x10 el array / #112


In addition, DL1VPL told me that he was able to copy me with his single 12el Yagi during the QSO with I2FAK! Needless to say, a contact between two single Yagi stations would be truly remarkable. I've only been able to copy a single Yagi station once over the years.

F4DJK's 4x11 el array

F5AQX's 4x11 el array

DJ9DBJ's 4x10 el array

I was gratified to see that letting the smoke out of my little amplifier last month apparently caused no permanent damage and the repair seems to be holding up ... but I'll leave the bottom off for now just in case it gets any more crazy ideas.

June Moonbounce Heats Up

Last week's favorable northern declination of the Moon allowed me two days of activity, once my moonrises had lagged far enough behind the early sunrises.

With fixed elevation and not having the ability to track the moon as it rises, I can only operate for about two hours before the moon gets too high. The highest elevation that I am able to work seems to stop near 20 degrees.

With QSLs from earlier sessions still arriving, I noted last week's activity was down somewhat from the previous month ... summertime activities usually take priority over EME for most moonbouncers.








During my two mornings of moon time I worked five stations which included two new DXCC countries, bringing my 2m DXCC total to 30. Stations worked at the end of June were:

                    ON4AOI #106 (new country)
                    OH3AWW #107 (new country)
                    I2RV second QSO
                    DK9WI #108
                    IK6CAK #109

ON4AOI - 4 X 14V / 14H array
OH3AWW - 4 X 9el array
IK6CAK - 9H / 6V 8el LFA array more
Interestingly, all of the stations answered one of my CQs, with one CQ having three different callers at one time ... pretty exciting and something that I don't think has occurred here before! But that wasn't the only excitement of the week.

In the middle of a CQ following my QSO with IK6CAK, I heard a faint 'crack' sound from my amplifier, an aging RF Concepts 2-135, followed by the unmistakable whiff of a 'too hot' electronic component ... every ham is familiar with this always unwelcome odor and it usually spells trouble.



During the next CQ, I saw a trace of smoke coming out of the amp's back corner vent holes, at which point I reluctantly shut things down in the middle of some superb EME conditions.

After tearing into the amplifier, the only thing that looked stressed was a small inductor (L14 below), part of the output filtering / impedance matching circuitry.


It looked a little darker and somewhat stressed and as I gave it a poke with a screwdriver blade, it immediately disintegrated into what you see below.


It was a small (1.2uH) encapsulated RFC which appeared to be wire-wound on a core material that I did not recognize and likely suitable for VHF. I surmised that after several years of 100% duty-cycle JT65 operation, the inductor had been over-stressed to the point of failure ... helping to filter all of those nasty high frequency harmonics can't be an easy job!

After a search of my RFC collection (see below), salvaged mostly from junked TVs, monitors, VCRs and other electronic cast-offs temporarily 'borrowed' for stripping from our local recycle center here on Mayne Island, I settled on a 1.2uH choke that I hoped would be a suitable replacement. It had just a few turns so I assumed it was wound on some sort of powdered iron or ferrite form. Whether or not it would behave at 144MHz was another question.


After reassembling the amplifier the following morning, I keyed up at full power during the EME window but halfway through my initial CQ I saw smoke and then flames coming from the inside of the case ... yikes! Shutting down immediately killed the fire and after tearing into the amp yet again, I saw that this time, the output coupling capacitor (C51) had completely destroyed itself.


The new inductor (L14) appeared a little heated, but I assumed it was only smoke-damaged from the nearby flameout of the capacitor. I replaced C51, an 820pF silver mica, with a higher rated one of the same value and, once again, gave it the smoke test ... literally.

After a few seconds, a whiff of smoke appeared from the back of the amp, followed by the SWR trip-out kicking in and shutting the amp down.

This time it appeared that the inductor was definitely complicit in the destruction of the capacitor as it was charred and black. I surmised that whatever core material the little inductor was wound upon, definitely was not suitable at 144MHz and had caused the little inductor to either change value or to saturate ... whatever it was doing had created a highly reactive condition in the output circuit, changing the output load impedance and sending the SWR sky-high.

This time I replaced the inductor with a homebrew one, wound on a plain phenolic former, hoping to avoid any ferro-magnetic / frequency compatibility issues. After reassembling the amplifier, it seemed to be happy once again and ran nicely for several 60 second JT65B sequences at full power with no smoke or component heating!

By this time I had run out of favorable EME windows as my moonrises were now too far to the south to keep me away from the neighbour's trees ... I'll just have to be patient and wait until the end of the month for the next definitive test. Let's hope there's no more smoke.

June Moonbounce Heats Up

Last week's favorable northern declination of the Moon allowed me two days of activity, once my moonrises had lagged far enough behind the early sunrises.

With fixed elevation and not having the ability to track the moon as it rises, I can only operate for about two hours before the moon gets too high. The highest elevation that I am able to work seems to stop near 20 degrees.

With QSLs from earlier sessions still arriving, I noted last week's activity was down somewhat from the previous month ... summertime activities usually take priority over EME for most moonbouncers.








During my two mornings of moon time I worked five stations which included two new DXCC countries, bringing my 2m DXCC total to 30. Stations worked at the end of June were:

                    ON4AOI #106 (new country)
                    OH3AWW #107 (new country)
                    I2RV second QSO
                    DK9WI #108
                    IK6CAK #109

ON4AOI - 4 X 14V / 14H array
OH3AWW - 4 X 9el array
IK6CAK - 9H / 6V 8el LFA array more
Interestingly, all of the stations answered one of my CQs, with one CQ having three different callers at one time ... pretty exciting and something that I don't think has occurred here before! But that wasn't the only excitement of the week.

In the middle of a CQ following my QSO with IK6CAK, I heard a faint 'crack' sound from my amplifier, an aging RF Concepts 2-135, followed by the unmistakable whiff of a 'too hot' electronic component ... every ham is familiar with this always unwelcome odor and it usually spells trouble.



During the next CQ, I saw a trace of smoke coming out of the amp's back corner vent holes, at which point I reluctantly shut things down in the middle of some superb EME conditions.

After tearing into the amplifier, the only thing that looked stressed was a small inductor (L14 below), part of the output filtering / impedance matching circuitry.


It looked a little darker and somewhat stressed and as I gave it a poke with a screwdriver blade, it immediately disintegrated into what you see below.


It was a small (1.2uH) encapsulated RFC which appeared to be wire-wound on a core material that I did not recognize and likely suitable for VHF. I surmised that after several years of 100% duty-cycle JT65 operation, the inductor had been over-stressed to the point of failure ... helping to filter all of those nasty high frequency harmonics can't be an easy job!

After a search of my RFC collection (see below), salvaged mostly from junked TVs, monitors, VCRs and other electronic cast-offs temporarily 'borrowed' for stripping from our local recycle center here on Mayne Island, I settled on a 1.2uH choke that I hoped would be a suitable replacement. It had just a few turns so I assumed it was wound on some sort of powdered iron or ferrite form. Whether or not it would behave at 144MHz was another question.


After reassembling the amplifier the following morning, I keyed up at full power during the EME window but halfway through my initial CQ I saw smoke and then flames coming from the inside of the case ... yikes! Shutting down immediately killed the fire and after tearing into the amp yet again, I saw that this time, the output coupling capacitor (C51) had completely destroyed itself.


The new inductor (L14) appeared a little heated, but I assumed it was only smoke-damaged from the nearby flameout of the capacitor. I replaced C51, an 820pF silver mica, with a higher rated one of the same value and, once again, gave it the smoke test ... literally.

After a few seconds, a whiff of smoke appeared from the back of the amp, followed by the SWR trip-out kicking in and shutting the amp down.

This time it appeared that the inductor was definitely complicit in the destruction of the capacitor as it was charred and black. I surmised that whatever core material the little inductor was wound upon, definitely was not suitable at 144MHz and had caused the little inductor to either change value or to saturate ... whatever it was doing had created a highly reactive condition in the output circuit, changing the output load impedance and sending the SWR sky-high.

This time I replaced the inductor with a homebrew one, wound on a plain phenolic former, hoping to avoid any ferro-magnetic / frequency compatibility issues. After reassembling the amplifier, it seemed to be happy once again and ran nicely for several 60 second JT65B sequences at full power with no smoke or component heating!

By this time I had run out of favorable EME windows as my moonrises were now too far to the south to keep me away from the neighbour's trees ... I'll just have to be patient and wait until the end of the month for the next definitive test. Let's hope there's no more smoke.

CQ Crossband and … 3 Down, 97 To Go!



Several QSL cards have arrived after the last 630m 'crossband' event ... including one from ZF1EJ in the Cayman Islands confirming our 630m QSO in January.



 

The contact was made on JT-9, the 'WSPR QSO' mode, and represents DXCC country #3 for me on 630m ... only 97 more to go! ZF1EJ was running just 32 watts output when we had our 630m JT-9 contact but has since cranked his output to around 60 watts. Eden is beaconing most nights on WSPR and puts out a well-heard signal. He is very interested in two-way JT-9 work with other VE stations as well as any Europeans and down-under stations.

From what I can tell, it looks like JT-9 (similar to JT-65 but a much narrower bandwidth of 15.6Hz) is establishing itself as the go-to mode for weak signal two-way work on 630m. It has a couple of things going for it that makes it very attractive for this band ... it can dig way down into the noise (-25 db approximately) and communicate with very weak signals and, it does not require amateurs to know CW, a growing trend with newer operators and a real hindrance to two-way CW work. I suspect, and hope, that there will be much more CW activity on 630m once amateurs in the U.S.A. get the band as the amount of information that can be exchanged per transmission on JT-9 is limited ... time will tell.

In the meantime, here is a request for more two-way 'crossband' CW activity with amateurs in all parts of North America. I have recently totally revised the 'CQ Crossband' page on my website, 'The VE7SL Radio Notebook'. Please note that my web address for well over a decade, is no longer valid and everything has been moved to this new location. If you have the old one bookmarked or are linking to it from your own site, please be aware that previous links will now be dead.

The crossband concept allows amateurs not yet on 630m to still participate in this exciting part of the spectrum ... and to check out their ability to hear anything on MF. If we were to make a schedule for a crossband contact, I would be transmitting on 630m at full ERP while you would be answering on one of the HF bands ... usually 160, 80 or 40m.

I am very much interested in setting up crossband schedules for 630m at any time and can very likely enlist several other VE7s to be there as well so that you can work more than one station. I have full details on my updated 'CQ Crossband' web page but please do not hesitate to give crossband a try!


Roger, VE7VV in Victoria, B.C., recently became the 8th VE7 to muster RF on 630m, with power limited to 1 watt at present. Our contact was on CW while he worked stations in Vancouver on JT-9. Hopefully he will continue to build his station and become more active on the band.

Crossband continues to be a subject of much interest both here and with many U.S. stations that are waiting for the band. Recent cards from Colorado and California, shown below, are the latest to arrive.




K6YK gave me an RST of '519' but explained the reason for this was because he was receiving on his 3 el HF tri-bander which provided the best signal-to-noise value! This is often the case on 630m so try what you have. Many times a 'non-resonant' antenna will pick up less noise and yield the best signal readability.

If you would like to try a crossband QSO, please contact me at VE7SL (at) shaw.ca ... I'll keep the rig warmed up!

CQ Crossband and … 3 Down, 97 To Go!



Several QSL cards have arrived after the last 630m 'crossband' event ... including one from ZF1EJ in the Cayman Islands confirming our 630m QSO in January.



 

The contact was made on JT-9, the 'WSPR QSO' mode, and represents DXCC country #3 for me on 630m ... only 97 more to go! ZF1EJ was running just 32 watts output when we had our 630m JT-9 contact but has since cranked his output to around 60 watts. Eden is beaconing most nights on WSPR and puts out a well-heard signal. He is very interested in two-way JT-9 work with other VE stations as well as any Europeans and down-under stations.

From what I can tell, it looks like JT-9 (similar to JT-65 but a much narrower bandwidth of 15.6Hz) is establishing itself as the go-to mode for weak signal two-way work on 630m. It has a couple of things going for it that makes it very attractive for this band ... it can dig way down into the noise (-25 db approximately) and communicate with very weak signals and, it does not require amateurs to know CW, a growing trend with newer operators and a real hindrance to two-way CW work. I suspect, and hope, that there will be much more CW activity on 630m once amateurs in the U.S.A. get the band as the amount of information that can be exchanged per transmission on JT-9 is limited ... time will tell.

In the meantime, here is a request for more two-way 'crossband' CW activity with amateurs in all parts of North America. I have recently totally revised the 'CQ Crossband' page on my website, 'The VE7SL Radio Notebook'. Please note that my web address for well over a decade, is no longer valid and everything has been moved to this new location. If you have the old one bookmarked or are linking to it from your own site, please be aware that previous links will now be dead.

The crossband concept allows amateurs not yet on 630m to still participate in this exciting part of the spectrum ... and to check out their ability to hear anything on MF. If we were to make a schedule for a crossband contact, I would be transmitting on 630m at full ERP while you would be answering on one of the HF bands ... usually 160, 80 or 40m.

I am very much interested in setting up crossband schedules for 630m at any time and can very likely enlist several other VE7s to be there as well so that you can work more than one station. I have full details on my updated 'CQ Crossband' web page but please do not hesitate to give crossband a try!


Roger, VE7VV in Victoria, B.C., recently became the 8th VE7 to muster RF on 630m, with power limited to 1 watt at present. Our contact was on CW while he worked stations in Vancouver on JT-9. Hopefully he will continue to build his station and become more active on the band.

Crossband continues to be a subject of much interest both here and with many U.S. stations that are waiting for the band. Recent cards from Colorado and California, shown below, are the latest to arrive.




K6YK gave me an RST of '519' but explained the reason for this was because he was receiving on his 3 el HF tri-bander which provided the best signal-to-noise value! This is often the case on 630m so try what you have. Many times a 'non-resonant' antenna will pick up less noise and yield the best signal readability.

If you would like to try a crossband QSO, please contact me at VE7SL (at) shaw.ca ... I'll keep the rig warmed up!

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